Gut- Opdyke Irena

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Story of Rescue - Gut- Opdyke Irena

Before 1939 Irena Gut was attending a school of nursing. After the war broke out, when the German and Soviet armies occupied the territory of Poland, Irena began collaborating with the underground. Captured by a troop of Soviet soldiers, beaten and raped numerous times, she was forced to work for the Red Army. Having escaped, she was caught by the Germans and sent to forced labor in a munitions factory. Her situation changed when an SS major made her his housekeeper. This took her to Lvov and later Tarnopol, where she became a laundry forewoman. The laundry employed Jews from the nearby ghetto. Irena helped them and provided them with food among other things. 

In July 1943, when the Germans began the liquidation of the ghetto, Irena Gut helped a number of Jews to find safe shelter. She also convinced the commander of the labor camp to take the rest of his workers to the woods, where they could survive the extermination. She was hiding 12 people herself: Frankę Wilner and her husband and the Haller couple in the laundry facilities, and the other – in the SS major’s villa. Two years later it turned out the Hallers were expecting a child. Irena would not agree for them to abort it. And thus she saved her thirteenth human life.

Shortly before the Red Army entered the area, in March 1944, Irena was arrested by the Gestapo; she managed to escape. She wound up in a Soviet prisoner camp, from which she was brought out by – due to a chance encounter – the Jews she saved. After the war many of the rescued left for Israel. In an intermediary camp in Germany Irena Gut met her future husband, William Opdyke, with whom she left for the United States.

Bibliography

  • Gutman Israel red. nacz., Księga Sprawiedliwych wśród Narodów Świata, Ratujący Żydów podczas Holocaustu, Kraków 2009
  • Archiwum Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego, 301, 1708
    Frank Willner's account